L-r: Crystal, Scott, Taurus. Artist: Alex Toth.

SPACE ANGEL

Original medium: Television animation
Produced by: Cambria Productions
First Appeared: 1962
Creator: Dik Darley
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Space Angel, one of the early made-for-television animated series, is not remembered for excellence in animation — in fact, most people who remember it at all are impressed by how little animation went …

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… into it. Nor is it remembered for innovative technology — its one outstanding technique, Synchro-Vox (in which actual human lips were superimposed on still drawings of the characters, to simulate speech) had been used before, in the same studio's Clutch Cargo. Anyway, it's seldom been used since and is thought of today mostly as an oddity. In fact, the show isn't remembered for very many outstanding qualities at all. What makes it notable is that it was the first animation work of designer Alex Toth.

Toth had already distinguished himself in comic books, notably at DC Comics (where his work included Johnny Thunder and Rex the Wonder Dog) and Dell (including Zorro and quite a few movie adaptations). He'd also done a little storyboarding for live-action movies. Later, working for Hanna-Barbera, he designed Space Ghost, Shazzan and more. But Space Angel is what launched his career in animation. Later commentators have frequently remarked on the bizarre juxtaposition of Toth's excellent design work, with the almost nonexistent animation.

The creation of Space Angel is generally attributed to writer/director Dik Darley, whose live-action credits include Spike Jones's TV show and an obscure '60s sitcom called It's About Time, but who has done little else in animation. It was produced by Cambria Productions, which was also responsible for Clutch Cargo, the 1965 Captain Fathom and an animated version of The Three Stooges. It was done in the form of four-minute episodes, which were aired on local TV kid shows alongside theatrical stars like Mighty Mouse and other low-budget TV toons like Col. Bleep. Production ran between 1962 and '64.

Space Angel himself was Scott McCloud (no relation to the cartoonist behind Zot!), who worked for the EBI (Earth Bureau of Investigation). Scott was supposedly Space Angel's secret identity, but very little use was made of the "secret" part. Scott's space ship, Starduster, operated out of a space station called Evening Star. His crew, which apparently constituted very nearly the whole of EBI's Interplanetary Space Force, consisted of Taurus, the mechanic; and Crystal, the navigator, who was also Scott's love interest (to the extent he had one). Like Adam Strange's Alanna and Bucky Bug's June, Crystal was also the daughter of the local authority figure, Professor Mace, who was in charge of Evening Star.

Scott's voice was provided by Ned Lefebver, another who seems to have no other credits in animation. Taurus was Hal Smith (Gyro Gearloose in DuckTales). Crystal was Margaret Kerry, who, aside from being married to studio boss Dick Brown, was also, according to the more authoritative accounts, the model for Tinker Bell in the Disney version of Peter Pan.

Space Angel never made much of a mark in animation, but it's fondly recalled by many fans who are willing to overlook its obvious deficiencies in production values. And it did feature the earliest work in animation by the great Alex Toth.

— DDM

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Text ©2006-07 Donald D. Markstein. Art © Cambria Productions.